Ravens get defensive in draft, pick Alabama cornerback

The Associated Press

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens have made it clear this offseason that their No. 1 priority is fortifying the back end of the defense.

Shunning a trade offer for the No. 16 overall pick Thursday night, the Ravens selected Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who entered the draft after a solid sophomore season.

Alabama's Marlon Humphrey, back, was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the first round on Thursday.

Earlier this offseason, general manager Ozzie Newsome dipped into the free agent market to sign free agent cornerback Brandon Carr and safety Tony Jefferson.

By adding Humphrey to the mix, the Ravens now have four quality cornerbacks: Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young, Carr and Humphrey, who is expected to become an immediate contributor.

The 6-foot-2, 197-pound Humphrey is a strong tackler and took an interception back for a touchdown in Alabama's season opener in 2016.

"It was an opportunity for us to continue to put some strength into our secondary," Newsome said. "He has great size, really long arms and he can run. I feel like we got better in the secondary. ... It's about having quality, quality depth."

That's been the theme for the Ravens this offseason after the team stumbled to an 8-8 finish and missed the playoffs for the second year in a row.

"We've gone after a portion of our team in the back end with our secondary with a vengeance," coach John Harbaugh said. "We've done a great as job as an organization in terms of getting that done. We have some really good players back there and there is going to be competition. We're going to be darn tough to throw against."

The Ravens entered the draft with plenty of needs — most notably wide receiver, pass rusher and cornerback.

Three receivers went in the first nine picks, so that left Newsome looking elsewhere to improve the team. He had his eye on Humphrey and finally turned in the card after having several conversations with other teams interested in the No. 16 pick.

"It was a little hectic. Several people were calling," Newsome said. "We had already determined that Marlon was the player we wanted to select, but if somebody gave us an offer we couldn't refuse, then we would have traded back to another part of the first round."

Turns out, the chance to take Humphrey was too good to pass up.

"It's definitely a good pick for us," Harbaugh said. "There's nothing wrong with making yourself really strong in one area of your football team. This is the strongest we've been in the secondary in a really long time."

Humphrey is the son of former Alabama running back Bobby Humphrey, who was a first-round selection the 1989 NFL Supplemental Draft by the Denver Broncos.

The selection was announced by 14-year-old T.J. Owuanibe, who two years ago was diagnosed with brain cancer. He shared the stage with NFC Commissioner Roger Goodell by virtue of an arrangement with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The first day of the draft ended with the Ravens still looking for talent at several positions. With the 47th, 74th and 78th overall picks loomed ahead, the team was poised for a busy and important Friday evening.

"It's a critical day for the Ravens," assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said. "It's a big challenge, and we embrace it."